Hellen Obiri of Kenya Defence Forces will not defend her 10km title during the Lotto/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships slated for Saturday at Ngong Racecourse.
Obiri, who also failed to defend her KDF crown last month owing to a back injury, claimed her maiden national cross country crown on her debut in last year's event in Eldoret.
Obiri, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 5,000m silver medallist, would go on to lift her first World Cross Country title in Aarhus, Denmark last year on her way to retaining her World 5,000m crown in Doha the same year.
“I was up for the KDF event but I felt some pain in my back through to my right hamstring during the warm up session. I had to pull out,” said Obiri, who started to experience the discomfort at her back during the the ‘Cross Internacional de Itálica’ in Santiponce, Seville, Spain on January 19.
It’s World 5,000m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo who stunned Obiri to win the ‘Cross Internacional de Itálica’ .
Chelimo cruised to victory in 28 minutes and 37 seconds beating compatriot and World Cross Country Under-20 champion Beatrice Chebet to second place in 28:49 as Ethiopian Tsehay Gemechun settled third in 29:00.
Obiri, who is also the World 5,000m champion, came in fourth in 29:27 followed by compatriot Eva Cherono in 29:41.
“This is an Olympic year and I don’t want to aggravate anything. However, I have given it medical attention and I will be fine,” said Obiri, who hopes to open her track season either at World Athletics Continental Tour on May 2 in Nairobi or the opening leg of the Diamond League in Doha on April 17.
Despite Obiri’s absence, the women’s field is still saturated with elite entrants including her KDF teammates. They include former KDF champion Joyciline Jepkosgei, who is also the World Half Marathon record holder.
Jepkosgei, who is fresh from winning the New York City Marathon on November 3 on her debut over the distance, will be looking for support from the likes of Dorcas Kimeli, Irene Kamais, Perin Nenkampi and Caroline Jeptoo.
Two former champions Stacy Ndiwa (2018) of Kenya Police Service and Margaret Wangari (2013) of Nyanza North, will be seeking to recapture to the title.
Ndiwa will team up with Kenya Police Service champion Jackline Cherotich, the 2018 Kenya Police champion Margaret Chelimo, Lilian Chebii, Caroline Nyaga and 2013 World 5,000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono.
Kenya Prisons Service have also unleashed their top cream led by 2017 World Cross Country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait, Rosemary Wanjiru, Loice Chemunung and Caren Chebet.
Former World Half Marathon champions Peris Jepchirchir and Gladys Cherono will lead Central Rift and South Rift’s s assault while Sandrafelis Chebet will lead Nairobi's charge.